The Q&A Archives: Fungus On Coneflowers & Black-Eyed Susans

Question: My coneflowers and black eyed susans have gradually developed what appears to be a fungus. While the flowers were dying off, the leaves and stems became a very dark brown color. They are about 35 ft. apart. I believe it's too late for me to do anything with them now, but I'm wondering if I should cut them all back now in an attempt to discourage the fungus from reappearing, or if it is good enough to cut them back in the spring. The black eyed susans actually look quite pretty and I usually keep my plants through the winter for the birds and other wildlife. Would appreciate your advice.

Answer: Some darkening of the seed heads is normal however it should not look like a fungus on the whole plant. I would trim them back very short and clean my clippers off between plants by dipping them in a bleach and water solution. Then I would carefully remove all the trimmings and either put them in the trash or burn them -- do not compost them. To be honest I doubt the birds would eat seed if it has gone bad in some way anyway. In the spring, keep an eye out for signs of the same thing happening. Next spring, you might also consider dividing them and spreading them a bit further apart for better air circulation if they are either several years old or crowded thickly together. This should help reduce the chance of infection next year.

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